Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’ 

© July 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 29, 2018

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on March 8, 2015

BLCF: Bulletin March 8, 2015

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Responsive Reading #601: (Faith and Confidence – from Psalm 27)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’

 

Let us pray…

Life can often seem to be an emotional roller coaster, especially if you read the news. Last Sunday morning, we celebrated the answer to the collective prayers offered by millions of people from around the world, when fourteen soccer players and their coach were rescued from the bowels of the earth, inside a monsoon flooded cave in Thailand. Regretfully, a retired marine dive lost his life during the rescue.

Soccer-team-rescued-from-cave-honours-lost-diver-Thailand-2018-07-06

By Sunday evening, the tears of joy for the cave rescue were replaced by tears of sadness, when fifteen people in Toronto, their families, and our city had their collective lives shattered after a shooter changed their lives forever.

Such acts of violence have been addressed more than once from this pulpit, most recently on the topic of God’s admonition to us to protect innocent children. The two victims who lost their lives in the shooting spree were both students, girls aged 18 and 10 years old, respectively.

#DanforthStrong – #TorontoStrong

After the tragedy, there was a scramble to see whether the shootings were part of a larger plot that threatened public safety and an investigation of the motives that triggered the shooter to commit an act of senseless violence as well as his methods, in order to prevent a reoccurrence of any attacks in the future.

Municipal politicians voted to ban the public’s possession of handguns within the city of Toronto. Ironically, the gun used in the shooting was stolen during a break-and-enter in Saskatoon in 2015. It is unlikely the new ban would have any effect upon those who obtain weapons from illegal sources.

The flag at half-staff at Toronto City Hall

How, as Christians who believe in Jesus, the Resurrected Christ, cope with the atrocities of life, both of large and minor scale? The answer is faith. As you might expect, faith is the subject of today’s lesson.

I would like to commend those in the congregation who have faithfully come to our Praise and Worship Services here, in spite of the hot and humid Sundays that we experienced this summer.

In Hebrews 11, the Apostle Paul gives us a great definition for faith, followed by a number of examples throughout the Scriptures of individuals who made bold decisions and action, based upon their faith.

Instead of discussing the entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews for this morning’s lesson, I would like to focus on events related to the life and actions of the Prophet Moses, who is the subject of today’s Scripture verses, taken from Exodus 1:8-22, Exodus 2:1-10,  and Numbers 20:6-13.

Before we examine the life and times of Moses, let us look at Paul’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11, which you will find on the back of today’s Bulletin:

Hebrews 11:1-3; 17-29; 39-40 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

In Exodus 1:8-22, we see that Pharaoh of Egypt was described as not knowing Joseph, in that he forgotten how the prophet of God had saved the people of Egypt when he preserved the people from famine. Pharaoh chose to oppose God’s chosen people, and by doing so opposed God, by deciding to kill the firstborn Hebrew males.

Exodus 1:8-22(ESV): Pharaoh Oppresses Israel

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews[a] you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 1:22 Samaritan, Septuagint, Targum; Hebrew lacks to the Hebrews

The Hebrew midwives, at great personal by opposing risk, chose to defy Pharaoh and preserve the newborn, indicating that the Hebrew women are stronger than Egyptian women and have no need for midwives.

Exodus 1:8-22 (ESV): The Birth of Moses

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Exodus 2:3 Hebrew papyrus reeds b. Exodus 2:10 Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out

It is worth noting that Moses and the Hebrew People owe their own survival to a group of brave and faithful women:  to the midwives who opposed Pharaoh’s edict, to Moses’ mother and sister who preserved the child from drowning on the Nile, and to Pharaoh’s daughter who chose to adopt Moses as her own.

It is ironic that Egypt’s firstborn males were destroyed on the night of Passover and most of the remaining males drowned when the sea closed upon Pharaoh’s army, as they chased Moses and the Hebrews who had crossed the sea that God had parted. The judgment of Pharaoh was executed upon Egypt.

Numbers 20:6-13 (ESV): The Waters of Meribah

Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

Moses Strikes the Rock

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah,[a] where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

Footnotes: a. Numbers 20:13 Meribah means quarreling

Because Moses allowed his own personal feelings towards the rebellious people of Israel to use the miracle of the Lord as an opportunity to vent his anger instead of glorifying God, he was not allowed to enter The Promised Land. Moses was unfaithful in following the directions God gave him as to using words to bring forth water.

While Moses and Elijah were observed by the disciples with Jesus, at the time of the Lord’s transfiguration indicates the Moses was raised up to Heaven, even though he was not allowed to lead his people to the Promised Land. Moses was punished, but not forgotten by God and was granted His grace.

So my advice to you this morning is no matter what your circumstance in this emotional roller coaster of life that you ride, always temper that ride with a large dose of faith. Only faith can allow us to make sense of the adage: “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”, which is taken from the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):                                                                                      

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’                  

© February 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 11, 2018

Based on a Message shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF on November 28, 2010

BLCF Nov_28_2010 Bulletin

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                           

Opening  Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone; Choruses                                                                         

Prayers and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              

Responsive Reading #648 ( A Challenge to Faith – from Hebrews 11 and 12) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                           

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, in the heart of Toronto.

Our lesson today is a study of the ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’, taken from Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV):

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a]and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Footnotes: a. Matthew 25:14 Or bondservants; also verse 19 b. Matthew 25:15 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 25:21 Or bondservant; also verses 232630

The ‘Ten Talents’ was number 21 of some 40 Parables that Jesus used during his earthly ministry. Jesus often used parables to help us understand the teachings of His ministry. By definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. These parables of Jesus, found in the three synoptic gospels, or the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings.

What did Jesus talent as mentioned in title of this passage of scripture? A talent was the largest measurement of money in those days. Since a talent was actually a measurement of weight, it did not have a constant value. A talent of gold, for example, would be worth a whole lot more than a talent of bronze. While commentators differ somewhat over the approximate value of a talent in today’s economy, all would agree that it was a large amount of money. Talents were used as a unit of currency, worth about 6,000 denari. Since a denarius was the usual payment for a day’s labor, a talent would translate roughly the value of twenty years of work by an ordinary person.

Why did Jesus give us a parable about treasure and money? In Matthew 10:17-25 (ESV), the Bible says this about Christ’s encounter with a rich young man:

The Rich Young Man

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Footnotes:a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches b. Mark 10:26 Some manuscripts to one another

In Mark 6:7-9 (ESV) Jesus told his disciples: “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Keep in mind that in the ‘10 Talents’, Jesus presents us with a story that that is a parable. And that by definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Therefore we should not take the events the in the story literally, but as an allegorical lesson to give us insight and understanding to our Lord’s expectations of us. This will allow us to develop a better, richer relationship with our Lord.

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the God’s Kingdom. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgment.

The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense), referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness“:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide

This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word “talent” used for an aptitude or skill.

There are a number of hymns that mention the parable, notably  John Wesley‘s “Servant of God, Well Done!” which refers to Matthew 25:23 (ESV):

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Wesley authored the hymn after the death of Anglican Minister George Whitfield,  who helped spread the Great Awakening throughout Britain and the colonies in British North America, being one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. Whitefield became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because Wesley traveled through all of the American colonies, he drew great crowds and media coverage, being one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Wesley’s hymn begins:

Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battles fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.

This passage is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are actively living out God’s will?

With the help of the Spirit, the Bible is its own interpreter.  We may understand the meaning of this passage from the Scriptures by reading it in context of other scripture on the same or related topics. The key to the passage may be found in Matthew 25:29 (ESV):

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Jesus used these very same words in the “Parable of the Sower”, found in Matthew 13. We know from that parable that the seed sown is the Bible and the message about ‘The Kingdom’ found in verses 18-23. In the two parables are the ‘Seed Sown’ and the ‘Talent Entrusted‘ appear to be one in the same. In both parables, Jesus speaks taking action to bring an increase in your understanding and knowledge of God in your life by acting on it and putting it to work. This is the great commission. We find more scriptures that refer to knowledge being like money or something of value having been given to us?
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (ESV) we read:

13 Follow the pattern of the sound[a] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 1:13 Or healthy

In Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV), we read:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In the ‘10 Talents’, the first two servants undertook to grow what was entrusted to them. They acted with confidence and faith that their endeavors to increase that which was entrusted to them. They had a confidence and assurance of faith that they would be successful in caring for that of value which was entrusted to them.

God expect us to minister to others with the His Spirit providing us with not only confidence and assurance of faith, but also with endurance, as we see in Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV):

 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

The third servant acted out of fear and misunderstanding of his master and did nothing. His actions were more rooted in fear of the wrath of his master, and lacked a true understanding as to what his Master’s expectations were. Our take away from this is we are to walk with confidence in the Lord, see Ephesians 5:8 (ESV):

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Our Christian walk should be characterized by: faith, wisdom, and awareness of His and the time we have, Ephesians 5:15-17(ESV):

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

And contrary to the notion once saved, always saved, we may lose the promise of salvation if our actions are not in line with what the Lord expects of us. We see this in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV):

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Consider the usage of the word “Earth” elsewhere in Jesus’ parables. The word earth is always used in reference to a man’s heart. We sow seeds (the Word) in the earth (men’s hearts). Likewise, earth is used in this parable. He who was only given one talent (given one gift) hid it in his heart, afraid to use it for God’s gain, and he lost it.

Sometimes we who claim Jesus Christ as Saviour can behave like the slothful servant in that we may become too comfortable just sitting in the pews only keeping company with other Christians, just praying for each other, talking only to those we know about the goodness of God. While this may be a good start, as we need to fellowship as a body of believers. However, God wants us to get outside of that cozy comfort zone. Like Peter take a step of faith outside the boat, as it were. He has given us each a measure of faith, His Word, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and presence of the Holy Spirit to empower us, so that we spread the ‘Good News’ about our faith to those whom we do not know. Many who claim to believe, lack the faith in their own God given talents to make a difference in somebody’s life. They say that they just are not gifted to share the gospel in a significant way. This brings to mind The Starfish Story, an abbreviated version of this story may be found on the front page of today’s bulletin. Here is a longer version of the same story:

The Starfish Story, adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

There once was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are entrusted and expected now, and until the day He returns, to reach out to share our faith in Him, to boldly take risks of faith. Our talent of responsibility is to make an investment in someone, other than those we know or with whom we are comfortable, and share our testimony in word and deed. For this our Lord will hold each of us accountable. It is on the basis of this we will be judged.

In this regard, Jesus’ ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents’ is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are we actively living out God’s will? For the Great Commission entrusted to us, as good and faithful servants described in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnotes:a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The choice is ours, as to whether we faithfully trust our Lord and invest what gifts the Master has entrusted to our care. You can make a difference, even if it be to a single starfish or an unsaved soul.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness    

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13): Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.  – Amen

Alive in Christ – Faith’s Reward

BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Alive in Christ – Faith’s Reward’

© June 1, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 1, 2014

BLCF: prayer-walk

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #648

(A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer

Opening Hymn #237 What Can Wash Away My Sin?

Scripture Verses:Hebrews 11:1-3 and Matthew 17:14-20

BLCF: exercise_faith_walk_with_Jesus

Let us pray…

As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses and the Responsive Reading that we read as a Call to Worship for the Worship Service here at BLCF, today’s Message is on the topic of Faith. More specifically, we will look at God’s reward for faith: being “alive in Christ”.

Instead of being a religion, Christianity is described as a faith practice. To get a better understanding of what we mean by faith, let us cite the following Wiki bits:

From online dictionaries, (by way of Google search), we have faith described as follows:

BLCF: Faith

Faith fāTH/ noun

noun: faith

  • 1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

 

 

“this restores one’s faith in politicians”

synonyms:

trust, belief, confidence, conviction; More

 

optimism, hopefulness, hope

 

“he justified his boss’s faith in him”

antonyms:

mistrust

  • 2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

 

 

synonyms:

religion, church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine More

 

“she gave her life for her faith”

  • a system of religious belief. plural noun: faiths

 

 

“the Christian faith”

  • a strongly held belief or theory.

 

 

“the faith that life will expand until it fills the universe”

Origin

 

Middle English: from Old French feid, from Latin fides

https://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4MSIM_enCA539CA540&q=faith

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Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion. It can also be defined as belief that is not based on proof,[1] as well as confidence based on some degree of warrant.[2][3] The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith

From the Christian believer’s standpoint, we can get a more specific definition, as follows:

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Christianity

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (1646–1713)

 

Main article: Faith in Christianity

 

Faith in Christianity is based on the work and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christianity declares not to be distinguished by faith, but by the object of its faith. Rather than being passive, faith leads to an active life aligned with the ideals and the example of the life of Jesus. It sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. To a Christian, faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and grow, and has its origin in God.

 

In Christianity, faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before Christians have faith, they must understand in whom and in what they have faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith, and that understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers, the scriptures and traditions and on the personal experiences of the believer. In English translations of the New Testament, the word faith generally corresponds to the Greek noun πίστις (pistis) or the Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuo), meaning “to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure”.

 

And the Christian definition of faith, can be narrowed further to the Evangelical Christian view or perspective:

Evangelical views

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In contrast to faith meaning blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence, Alister McGrath quotes Oxford Anglican theologian W. H. Griffith-Thomas, (1861-1924), who states faith is “not blind, but intelligent” and “commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence…”, which McGrath sees as “a good and reliable definition, synthesizing the core elements of the characteristic Christian understanding of faith.”

 

American biblical scholar Archibald Thomas Robertson stated that the Greek word pistis used for faith in the New Testament (over two hundred forty times), and rendered “assurance” in Acts 17:31 (KJV), is “an old verb to furnish, used regularly by Demosthenes for bringing forward evidence.” Likewise Tom Price (Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics) affirms that when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis] which means “to be persuaded.”

 

British Christian apologist John Lennox argues that “faith conceived as belief that lacks warrant is very different from faith conceived as belief that has warrant.” And that, “the use of the adjective ‘blind’ to describe ‘faith’ indicates that faith is not necessarily, or always, or indeed normally, blind.” “The validity, or warrant, of faith or belief depends on the strength of the evidence on which the belief is based.” “We all know how to distinguish between blind faith and evidence-based faith. We are well aware that faith is only justified if there is evidence to back it up.” “Evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives”.

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Peter S Williams holds that “the classic Christian tradition has always valued rationality, and does not hold that faith involves the complete abandonment of reason will believing in the teeth of evidence.” Quoting Moreland, faith is defined as “a trust in and commitment to what we have reason to believe is true.”

Regarding “doubting Thomas” in John 20:24-31, Williams points out that “Thomas wasn’t asked to believe without evidence.” He was asked to believe on the basis of the other disciples’ testimony. Thomas initially lacked the first-hand experience of the evidence that had convinced them… Moreover, the reason John gives for recounting these events is that what she saw is evidence… Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples…But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name. John 20:3031.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith

There are many Scripture passages that contain reference to faith. Perhaps the Apostle Paul gives the best definition in Hebrews, Chapters 11 and 12, which we read paraphrased and condensed in this morning’s Responsive Reading. But Paul presents a good summary in Hebrews 11:1-3.

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Hebrews 11:1-3 (ESV) By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

This morning’s bulletin has a good graphic illustration describing faith, from a worldly perspective.

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Evangelist Billy Graham used to describe faith based on how we trust a chair: which we use, based on trust. When you arrived in church today, you sat on, without first examining the pew to verify that the chair would support you without collapsing.

But there are several examples in the Bible where Jesus helps us understand faith by comparing the importance of having faith over the desire or need for material goods. The lack of, or absence of faith makes us anxious. The first example, comes from Matthew 6:30-34.

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Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV)

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 ”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6 contains the first of many verses about the problems when we have little or no faith. The next example of little faith, occurs when the Lord calms a stormy sea in Matthew 8:23-27.

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Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV) Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

The next “little faith” account takes place as Christ walk on the water in Matthew 14:28-33.

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Matthew 14:28-33 (ESV) Jesus Walks on the Water

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[c] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Footnotes: a. Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b. Matthew 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea c. Matthew 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind

 

And where faith engenders confidence, then little faith creates doubt, as we see when the disciples unsuccessfully attempt to heal a boy possessed by a demon in Matthew 17:14-20.

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Matthew 17:14-20 (ESV) Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[a] and it[b] came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.[c] 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”[d] Footnotes: a. Matthew 17:18 Greek it b. Matthew 17:18 Greek the demon c. Matthew 17:18 Greek from that hour d. Matthew 17:20 Some manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting

 

One thing that the disciples lacked was the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit, which takes place in the Upper Room on the evening of the day of Christ’s resurrection. Faith is the key to our effectiveness in doing the work of the Lord in the world. And if faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, just imagine what else can be achieved through faith.

In Hebrews 11, Paul details the work of faith amongst believers, or should we say God’s faithful.

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Hebrews 11 (ESV) By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

The miracles or signs the recorded in the New Testament are given as evidence so that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That belief that Paul speaks of, produces faith, which grows by the Grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle John indicates that faith is the purpose of his Epistle, John 20:30-31.

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John 20:30-31 (ESV) The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #8: Glory Be to God the Father

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Communion – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26):For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

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Benediction – (Colossians 2:6-7 – Alive in Christ): Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

 

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